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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hejira


To celebrate Joni Mitchell's 75th birthday here's an essay I wrote about the song Hejira. At some point this will be included in a book titled The Last Playlist. As a stand alone here, it lacks a little context and is in need of a professional edit, but for now—it's good enough. Happy Birthday Joni!  

Hejira- Joni Mitchell
                
     My road to Joni Mitchell began from an unlikely place—Rick Ocasek of The Cars.  Back in the early nineteen-eighties, Rolling Stone magazine would do these little cut outs of what musician were listening to at the moment, which was like an early version of this whole playlist phenomenon. Amidst all the garbage from the likes of Sammy Hagar and Bonnie Tyler, there was this really cool, obscure little list by Ocasek which included the album Blue, by Joni Mitchell. I didn’t much like The Cars, but was really impressed by his list.  
     Up to that point I was only familiar with Joni through songs on the radio and Court and Spark which my buddy The Doctor inherited from his sister and would sometimes play while we were hanging out in his room instead of doing our Chemistry homework.  
     Unlike most of us who were occupied with the flavor of the day—Queen, Fleetwood Mac and the like, The Doctor, had a PhD. level record collection that was small, but very hip and included jazz greats like Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Chick Corea and Court and Spark. I guess I liked the album, but not enough to explore further due to my very limited resources which went to Friday night beer and other brilliant albums like I’m In You by Peter Frampton.
     So I kind of forgot about Joni for several years until I saw Ocasek’s list. A little more evolved and a little further along with my resources I picked up Blue and it hit me hard.  The intimacy of these revelatory songs featuring Joni’s bittersweet voice accompanied by minimal instrumentation—often just a lone guitar or piano, were so visceral and so real and were such a welcome break from hairdos and bombast of the punk/new wave I was listening to at the time.  
     I also felt a kinship with Blue’s aspirations and disappointments while the wide open spaces, not suffocating with sound, were wondrous. Like many before me I not only fell for the music, but Joni as well. Beautifully blond, with an arresting smile she made you think of flowers and sunshine while informing you with an intelligence that was gritty and deep. The empty pinup she was not and my heart didn’t stand a chance against such a woman.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Interview With Book Blogger/Writer Anthony Avina


1)Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
 I grew up in a small three bedroom/one bathroom house with my parents and nine siblings in Buffalo, New York. Presently, I live in a suburb of Buffalo with my wife and three college age children, who are never going to leave.

As far as how I started to write. I went through a pretty aimless period after high school where I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do and was in and out of college.  Finally, in my early twenties I started read in a pretty serious way—stuff like Kerouac, Philip Roth, the poetry of Anne Sexton—which led me to want to give writing a shot. Problem was by the time I was all read up I was in my late twenties and had the pressure of trying to keep a roof over my head and a pretty serious girlfriend, whom I would eventually marry and have children with, so I had to shelve the writing thing. But when the kids got older and needed me less, I started to get up before work (really the middle of the night) make some coffee and write for a few hours. Few years later I have two published novels and a book of essays on the way, plus a million other ideas for books.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Indie Music and Leaving Jackson Wolf . . .

     In  Leaving Jack Wolf  available November 2, 2018 on Amazon and other on-line retailers we find the main characters: Jackson, McDougal, Lexi and Syd to be huge fans of cutting edge indie music. From the end of Chapter 1, this is McDougal listening to his favorite new song by Mitski. Of Mitski, rock legend Iggy Pop said: ". . . probably the most advanced American songwriter I know . . .  she can do whatever she wants- she writes and sings and she plays too."


 
From Leaving Jackson Wolf . . .
“This is Mitski. She’s my favorite.”
And from the mini Bose poured a voice with that rainy-afternoon vibe similar to Lana Del Rey’s, backed though by a broader range of instruments that included some ass-kicking guitar. The arrangements and Mitski’s voice also had more range. Sometimes it was apathetic, sometimes it was desperate and it ticked both up and down. Whatever it was, it was really good, and you could see McDougal totally lose himself in it. We all had stuff we got lost in, but McDougal brought it to another level under that ominous gray sky when “Your Best American Girl” started to play.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Origin of O'Malley


In the midst of the Great Depression, on a hot summer night in 1931, a girl barely twenty years old of dubious eastern European origins and reputation enters a northwestern Pennsylvania hospital. Anxious and scared, accompanied only by her stern, disapproving mother, she gives birth to a son, whom she will call William.
     William is the result of an unholy union between the young woman and a local business owner’s son of German descent. The exacting business owner forbids his son from having anything to do with the woman or her son and thus young William begins life with the shame and illegitimacy of a bastard child. But, not being acknowledged by his father was only part of it. Within a few years young William will be rejected again, this time by his mother when she meets an Irish man named O’Malley and follows him to Buffalo, NY. There, she starts a family proper, while young William anguishes with his grandmother in their ethnic enclave in Pennsylvania.
     Though wanting to be with his mother very badly William thrives as people rally around him in the tightly knit community. He does well academically, is a good athlete and is the star of school plays.
     In his mid-teens his grandmother becomes ill and William is sent to Buffalo to finally be with his mother. On the long train ride to Buffalo not only does he bring the shame of his illegitimacy, he also brings a strange eastern European name and a funny Pennsylvania accent for which he is mocked and derided. Sheltered in his ethnic enclave his entire life, William isn’t prepared for these these verbal assaults and is hurt by them. But, he fights back and eventually loses the accent, takes the name O’Malley as his own and acclimates to his Irish/Catholic neighborhood.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Knox, O'Malley, Sheena and The Miracle Mets




     On Thursday October 16th, 1969 at approximately 2:15 pm, O’Malley was feeling pressure from the extra half glass of milk he drank at lunch and dutifully raised his hand to use the lavatory. After a slight shake of her head, Mrs, Hurley, his fourth grade teacher excused him.

     As he stepped up to the urinal closest to the door in the basement lavatory O’Malley was surrounded by a group of older boys leaning against the walls and sitting on the edges of the  sinks. In the center of them was a kid named Knox. He had shoulder length hair, or goddamn hippie hair, as O’Malley’s father would say and he was holding a transistor radio, listening along with the other boys to game five of the World Series between the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles. It was Jerry Koosman on the mound for the improbable and ready to clinch Mets vs. Dave McNally of the Orioles.  
     After he finished his business at the urinal and was washing his hands, Knox, asked O’Malley, “You like baseball kid?”
     “Yes,” O’Malley replied skittishly and turned to leave.
     “Hold it,” the imposing eighth grader commanded. “Thought you said you liked baseball. Where ya going?”
     “Back to class,” O’Malley said looking in the direction of his classroom at the end of the hall.
     Knox walked over put his hand on O’Malley’s shoulder and said, “You’re probably doing some social studies/ history bullshit this time of day—right?”
     “Yes.”
     “Yeah, well, the Mets are making history right now and George Washington will be just as dead tomorrow as he is today. Sit down and listen to the game,” and he nodded toward the little platform that led to the urinals.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

I Feel Like Going Home . . .

         A home is often fraught with conflict, piles of laundry and endless things that need to be fixed or replaced. It is also a place with people who look like you, breath like you and who won’t laugh too much when they see you in your underwear. O’Malley embraced everything about home. He loved places where people rooted their lives and loved songs about people wanting to be where they rooted their lives.


    This was never more true than when he found himself with tears welling in his eyes in the parking lot of South Park Optical as he listened to I Feel Like Going Home, by Yo La Tengo. He didn't so much hear the song drifting from his satellite radio as he processed its dreamy atmospherics and felt its sad longing for the warm places where we take cover from the world—home.

    Wiping away the tears as the song concluded O’Malley laughed to himself at his, always near to the surface, emotions and thought of another weepy “home” songJohn Prine’s Summer’s End from “The Forgiveness Tree.” He heard it while having a cocktail with his wife on the back porch. The meditative summery vibe roused an image for O'Malley of his long dead mother. Like in a grainy home movie she was taking laundry down from a line and mugging for the camera with a big smile. A summer breeze blew through her hair and of course—as the author of ten children—she was pregnant. Yet, standing there, trapped in time, she was still so beautiful. And, as the moving chorus implored the listener to: Come on home . . . O’Malley began to weep and long for his dead mother.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Music Is Art . . .

Next Saturday-(09/08) my wife, Donna and I have a booth at "Music Is Art" festival at Riverworks from 11am-11pm. I'll be selling and signing copies of my novel "Written In The Stars: The Book Of Molly" and my wife will have all kinds of reasonably priced fine art for sale. Thank you...










Saturday, August 25, 2018

Rock Legend Elvis Costello Kills Three Hipsters With Deadly Smirk

 As the summer faded so did the crowds at Canalside. Jackson and Lexi, despite the lack of activity and the encroaching winter still liked going down there to sit on the benches and look out at the rapidly cooling waters of Lake Erie. Occasionally, they would touch hands and maybe even share a kiss, but mostly they looked at the water, enjoying its peaceful, rhythmic movement.
     With the Thanksgiving holiday only a week away, they fell into a conversation about their dysfunctional families and the disasters that seemed to always accompany the holiday when a man sitting on the next bench asked them for the time. He was bundled up pretty good and had a modest but identifiable British accent.

Local Author Will Write You Into Novel For Cash


West Seneca, N.Y.—For cash payments local author P.A. Kane will write you into his new novel, Leaving Jackson Wolf. With the crowdfunding phenomenon sweeping the country Kane thinks this would be a fun way for people to participate in the writing process and for him to increase his profile and revenue stream.

Kane is open to any ideas people have for placement in the coming of age novel due out this fall. You can be a swarthy guy standing on a corner. You can make a pass at Jackson’s brainy best friend McDougal. You can have a beer at a corner bar with Jackson’s alcoholic father, Mickey. Or, you can have Jackson beat the shit out of you—if that’s your pleasure. Anything you want, just as long as you have cash money.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Living For The City




     It’s the second day of freshman year and I’m outside my locked homeroom waiting for my teacher. There’s an assembly down in the auditorium that we piss-ant freshman are not invited to. Waiting with me in the hallway are three white guys and one black guy. I don’t know any of them. They come from places beyond my South Buffalo world, especially the tall stringy black guy. So, standing there in the mostly empty hallway, I hear one of the white guys, who is kind of beefy, say something to the black guy. I don’t catch it exactly, but know it includes the word “boy” because of the way tall stringy black guy responds: “Who the fuck you calling boy, motherfucker?” as he lays five or six, quick as lightning, open handed slaps about this white kid’s head. Not sure at the offense of the word boy, I’m stunned by his response and wait for the white kid to come back at him, but he just stands there, humiliated, with visible hand prints all over his face. The tall stringy black kid also stands there for a moment ready for one of us to take up our Caucasian brother’s cause. When none of us do, he turns and goes over to the window and in its slight reflection starts evening out his moderately sized afro with a pick, which has long vertical teeth and a handle shaped in the form of a clenched black fist.
     Thus began my education in race relations.